BIRMINGHAM: England captain Alastair Cook has backed Ian Bell to return to form following the veteran batsman’s promotion to number three for the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Bell, England’s most experienced batsman, having made his Test debut 11 years ago, has struggled for runs during the Ashes thus far with scores of one, 60, one and 11 in the first two matches.
There had been speculation that, with England repeatedly suffering top-order collapses, Bell might be dropped for the third Test at his Warwickshire home ground starting Wednesday after Australia levelled the five-match series at 1-1 with a crushing 405-run win at Lord’s.
But despite two failures in the second Test, Bell has been promoted to number three after England dropped Gary Ballance and brought in Jonny Bairstow to bat at five.
“He’s delighted to be back at three,” Cook said Tuesday of Bell.
“It’s a great opportunity to get in and make his mark on the game. He’s a proven international player and I think he’ll relish the chance to bat at three.
“Also being at his home ground is a really great opportunity.”
There had been speculation that the in-form Joe Root might be promoted to number three and opening batsman Cook said: “The selectors would have thrown that around in the meetings.
“But they decided (to go with) the experience Ian’s got in terms of 100-odd Test matches.
“Belly at three and Rooty at four looks pretty good.”
Bell’s recent performances have revived a longstanding criticism that, for all the technical ability that has yielded over 7,000 Test runs at an average of more than 43 with 22 hundreds, he is rarely a man for a crisis.
Bell, whose 562 runs at an average of 62 played a key role in England’s 2013 home Ashes series win, told Sky Sports: “I still believe that when I’m playing at my best I’m a world-class player.
“I know that I haven’t done that to my capability over the last six or seven Test matches, and hopefully this is the start of me kicking on and going forward again.”
Root, who scored a hundred in England’s 169-run first Test win at Cardiff, said Bell had the proven class to score runs at Edgbaston.
“I think every international player is playing for his place at all times,” Root said.
“Obviously some guys are scoring more consistently than others, but Ian’s record is fantastic.”